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Do you have to live in L.A. to make it as a screenwriter?
If you're writing for TV, living in L.A. is not an option, it's a must. But feature writers have some leeway. "You don't have to be in N.Y. or L.A. to sell a script if you understand the importance of targeting the buyers make the kinds of films that you're writing," says entertainment lawyer Judith Merians.
Certainly, there are advantages to living in L.A. On the one hand, you're in the thick of things. You can get an industry job. If you're lucky enough to land an agent, you can take meetings at a moment's notice. On the other hand, all that networking might distract you from your writing, which isn't a good thing. The decision to move to L.A. or not boils down to your personality. Move to L.A. and you may go crazy with the city's demands; don't move there and you may have to work twice as hard to get a career going.
"Even if you don't live in Hollywood, get out to L.A. once in a while. Meeting other writers and attending industry events give you a chance to make new contacts," says screenwriter/director Mary V. Dunkerly.
If you decide to make the big move, prepare well in advance. Arrive with a handful of polished scripts and a budget. Make a realistic strategy, akin to a business plan, for what you want to accomplish during your first year.
"If you come to Hollywood, expect to work harder than you ever have before," says screenwriter Andrew Bennett. "Prepare yourself to be a lonely grain of sand in a sea of others just like you. Stay positive. Network and cultivate contacts. Above all, don't quit. I'd like to tell you it gets easier, but I don't want to lie. But it gets easier to tell yourself that it'll get easier soon."
Michael Lent's book, Breakfast with Sharks, is a thorough study of becoming a working writer in L.A.